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The Polish Science Voice
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From the Publisher
March 27, 2013   
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Designed by scientists and built by engineers, unmanned land, water and air vehicles are not only fascinating but also extremely useful. Designs from the U.S. and Israel lead the way on this huge and growing market, but Polish constructors are not far behind. Engineers at the Warsaw-based Air Force Institute of Technology (ITWL) have built an unmanned, light observation helicopter that fits into a small suitcase and is instantly ready to fly. The helicopter, called Koliber (Humming Bird), can take off and land vertically and hover in the air.

Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, can be used in a wide range of operations, including reconnaissance, surveillance and aerial photography. They can be built in different sizes, from devices that fit into the palm of your hand to drones with a wingspan of up to 30 meters. They are excellent surveillance tools, used most frequently by the military over enemy territory. Fitted with optoelectronic devices, they enable continuous observation of land and moving troops. They can travel autonomously along planned routes or be remotely controlled from thousands of miles away.

While drones are mainly used by the military, the evolving technology means other organizations are also becoming interested, including the police, forestry services, geologists and cartographers.

According to the Air Force Institute of Technology, vertical takeoff and landing capabilities are the key features that make the Koliber stand out from other drones modeled on standard airplanes. The device needs no launching pad or runway to take off and can be used in virtually every location.

The Koliber has been built as part of a project called “The Design, Construction and Testing of a Light Unmanned Aerial Vehicle System for Vertical Takeoff and Landing” financed by the National Center for Research and Development.

Now from air to water. Researchers are sounding the alarm that a species of bacteria called Legionella can be extremely dangerous if they get into the lungs in the form of a water-air mixture. Such is the case in, for instance, cooling towers, showers and car washes. Sometimes it also happens that Legionella bacteria attack the human body when you swallow some water in a swimming pool. Surprisingly enough, scientists also have discovered that even such an innocuous activity as brushing your teeth and rinsing it with tap water may cause legionellosis in people with particularly low immunity.

How can we protect ourselves from these bacteria, which can be a source of serious diseases? In this issue of The Polish Science Voice, we talk about this not with a doctor, but an engineer, Bożenna Toczyłowska, Ph.D. from the Building Research Institute in Warsaw—who coordinated the work of a research team that carried out a project aiming to deal with the risk posed to people by Legionella. The project was supported financially by the National Center for Research and Development (NCBiR), which provided zl.1.4 million.

The main goal of the researchers at the Building Research Institute was to examine the state of water installations in buildings in terms of Legionella contamination and to highlight potential risk factors.

“Generally, the aim of the project was to work out a comprehensive range of measures to remove the potential risk of contamination with Legionella bacteria in warm and cold water installations as well as pool and air-conditioning systems in buildings,” Toczyłowska says. “Another aim was to formulate recommendations on how these systems should be operated and maintained in order to obtain the best possible result at the lowest possible cost.”
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